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A downed F-16 and an Iranian drone: The other side always started it

According to the Israeli narrative, the timeline of violence that resulted in Syria shooting down an Israeli fighter jet began just a few hours earlier. But Israel has been bombing inside Syria for months.

View of the remains of an F-16 plane downed Saturday morning by Syrian forces (Anat Hermony/Flash90)

View of the remains of an F-16 plane downed Saturday morning by Syrian forces (Anat Hermony/Flash90)

Make no mistake: the dramatic escalation of violence on the Israeli-Syrian border Saturday morning was initiated by Israel, and it is Israel’s responsibility to end it.

If the reports are accurate, and an Iranian drone did enter Israeli airspace Saturday morning, then this is indeed a new development, and a blatant and provocative violation of Israeli sovereignty. However, the escalation has been ongoing for several months and the Iranian drone was not the first shot fired, so to speak. Israel has been violating Lebanese sovereignty with manned and unmanned overflights and other incursions for over a decade now, and as Idan Landau wrote just a few days ago, in recent years began doing the same over Syria, conducting hundreds of airstrikes inside both countries.

In Hebrew, the IDF Spokesperson portrayed the drone intrusion as a “subversive action” against Israel. In English, the army warned that Syria and Iran are “playing with fire.” Military commentators in Israel are already echoing that narrative of escalation, which is not weakened by the fact this was the first time since 1982 that an Israeli fighter jet has been downed by enemy fire. Yet it is only possible to portray an Israeli attack on a neighboring state as a legitimate act of defense, and anti-aircraft fire on attacking warplanes as an act of aggression, by blindly and dangerously narrowing one’s view of reality, putting zero value on any perspective other than one’s own.

Israel has justified its cross-border attacks in recent months as preventing the introduction of new weapons into the hands of Hezbollah, which it claims would “breaking the power balance” in the region. But as Landau wrote, it is not up to Israel to dictate what weapons its enemies may obtain – just as no Israeli would say it is up to Iran, Syria, Lebanon or Hezbollah to determine what arms Israel may develop or buy from its allies.

At the time of writing, it appears that the current exchange of fire is over, but the imminent danger in this volatile situation has not passed. The primary threat is Israel’s policy of allowing itself a free hand to attack its neighbors. More than just calming messages from Jerusalem will be necessary to change that.

A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. This is just an attempt at Israel to eventually target Iran, yet again, really the only country that Israel fears. When that happens, and it will, Israel will call on its mentor, who has a lot of experience in the Middle East, to invade and obliterate the Iranians. I don’t think there is any question as to who started this fiasco. In my country, however, the shooting down of the Israeli plane was not newsworthy in the least, another example of who controls the news here.

      Reply to Comment
      • Nathanael

        The last time the US ran a war game to simulate an attack on Iran… the US side lost. The response of the idiots in power in the US? Prohibit the American general who was playing the Iranian side from using the tactics he used. The US is a paper tiger; it can’t win a war.

        Iran defeated Iraq even though nobody supported Iran and Iraq was backed by the US *and* used illegal chemical weapons. An attack on Iran is a guaranteed loser even for the US. For Israel, it would be suicide.

        Israel’s leadership is insane: it keeps trying to provoke a war with Iran. Iran’s government doesn’t care about Israel at *all* (it’s much too far away — Iran is worried about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman, *all* of whom have been at odds with Iran fairly recently).

        The obsession of Israel’s government with Iran is probably from some domestic political purpose — they want to create a boogeyman to scare Israelis into continuing to vote for fascists. It certainly has nothing to do with the real geopolitical situation.

        Israel is now picking fights with Russia, which is even stupider. There is really only one possible outcome of Israel’s government’s unending bellicose attacks on everyone in the neighborhood: the destruction of the state of Israel. It will be very unfortunate for the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, war protestors, and left-wing or peaceloving Jewish Israelis who cannot escape. If you can escape, I would get out now.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Lewis from Afula

      Yes, the mad mullahs in Tehran are really nice people – with their public hanging of Gays and oppression of women and takeover of Iraq and parts of Syria. How dare Israel fight them ?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Yeah, Right

      There is something more than a little pathetic in the Israeli hysteria over this Iranian drone, and some monumental hypocrisy from the USA in “supporting Israel’s right to self-defence” over same.

      After all, nobody disputes that this Iranians drone is a copy of that US drone that flew into Iranian airspace and was captured by the Iranians.

      Helllllllooooooooooo. Think about that.

      Did the Iranians respond with hysterics when that USAF drone flew into their airspace?

      Answer: no.

      Did anyone even hint that the Iranians had a “right of self defence” to fire volleys of missiles at the US airbase that launched that drone?

      Answer: no.

      The Iranians reacted calmly by simply nabbing the damn thing.
      The Iranians responded calmly by simply saying “No, you don’t get it back”.

      They acted, in short, like grown-ups.

      Compare and contrast: The Israelis flew into a rage like a bunch of over-excitable children with anger-management issues, and the USA excused those hysterics like an overly-indulgent parent.

      Not a good look, Bibi.
      You sound like an idiot, Mattis.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Omri

      Really stupid article, especially the 2 final paragraphs.
      “It’s not up to israel to determine what weapons hezbollah is getting just as its not up to iran/hezb/etc to determine israeli weapons”?
      It is not a question of “if its up to”, it’s a question of ability.
      If Israel believes that Hezbollah, an enemy organization with the target of destroying Israel, is gaining weapons (mostly long range missiles that will be used against civilian cities) which could inflict severe damage to idf or its citizens, upon a conflict, and is ABLE to act on it, i think it’s fair game, and it’s unfair to request otherwise. Israel is responsible for the security of its citizens and that includes not letting long range missiles go to the wrong hands.

      Let’s ask another question. Is it up to any country to stop another country from getting nuclear weapons? By your logic, no. But in the real world, we don’t want that every country or organization would be able to get armed however he likes.
      And yes to enforce that, you have to be stronger than the other side. The u.s cant force china or russia from not getting what they want, but they can force almost every other country.

      If Iran/hezbollah/hamas/lebanon would be ABLE to stop israel from getting armed with certain weapons, they would.

      In the military we have a term that says “מב”ם” which translates roughly to war between wars.
      You cant let an enemy organization or country to do what ever they want if you know it puts you in risk, and you can do something about it.
      Saying otherwise is just delusional and naive, and not objective.

      I really dont think that everything the idf/israel do is justifiable, but destroying weapons trucks on its way to hezbollah, while saying, if you’re going to try to get this weapons, I WILL attack, is justifiable and logical.

      Reply to Comment